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Frailest-Ever Winter Sea Ice Facing a Cruel, Cruel Summer

This past weekend, it rained over the ice of the late winter Kara Sea. Falling liquid drops that whispered of the far-reaching and fundamental changes now occurring at the roof of our world.

*****

For an Arctic suffering the slings and arrows of human-forced global warming, the winter ended just as it had begun — with an ice-crushing delivery of warm air from the south.

A burly high pressure system over Russia locked in an atmospheric embrace with a series of low pressure systems stretching from the Barents Sea down into Europe. Winds, originating from the Mediterranean rushed northward between these two opposing weather systems — crossing the Black Sea, the Ukraine, and swirling up over Eastern Europe. The winds wafted warm, above-freezing air over the thawing permafrost of the Yamal Peninsula. And the frontal system they shoved over the melting Arctic sea ice disgorged a volley of anomalous late-winter rain.

(Another ice-melting warm wind invasion rushes into the Arctic — this time through the Kara and Laptev Seas. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

As this rain hissed over the ice, delivering a load of heat to its fractured and frail surface, temperatures above the Kara Sea rose to 1 to 2 C — or about 25 to 30 C warmer than average (42 to 54 F warmer than normal). Meanwhile, the frontal boundary lofted by the warm winds rushed on — pushing above-freezing temperatures all the way into the Laptev Sea north of Central Siberia.

This most recent rush of warm air to the ice edge region came as a kind of herald for the start of melt season. Melt season start is an event that takes place every year at about this time. But during 2017, the sea ice set to begin this annual melt has never been so weak. The fall and winter warmth has been merciless. Month after month of far warmer than normal temperatures have pounded the ice. And now both sea ice extents and volumes are lower than they have ever been before — or at least since we humans have been keeping track.

Third Consecutive Record Low Sea Ice Extent Maximum

Neven and the sea ice observers over at The Arctic Sea Ice blog produced the following graph depicting what is all-too-likely to be a 2017 in which the sea ice extent maximum just hit another annual record low:

(2015, 2016 and 2017 produced record low or near record low winter maximum years for sea ice extent consecutively. Image by Deeenngee and The Arctic Sea Ice Blog.)

Neven, who is one of the world’s top independent sea ice analysts, noted Sunday that:

After a drop of almost 262 thousand km2 in just three days, it looks highly likely that the maximum for sea ice extent was reached two weeks ago, according to the data provided by JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (via ADS-NiPR ; it used to be provided by IJIS).

As melt season starts, another record low for sea ice extent maximum raises some serious concerns. The less ice that covers the ocean, the more dark blue surface is left open to absorb the sun’s rays. And this loss of ice poses a problem in that a less ice covered Arctic Ocean can take in more heat during melt season — which can serve as an amplifier for melt rates.

During 2015, Arctic sea ice extent also hit a record low maximum, which was nearly beaten again in 2016. But these losses thankfully did not translate into new record lows by the end of the 2016 summer melt season. Weather, as ever, plays its part. And there is some evidence to indicate that increased cloud cover caused by higher levels of water vapor above the Arctic may help to shield the ice somewhat during warmer months. A feature, however, that did little to prevent severe sea ice losses during the record summer melt of 2012 in which a powerful Arctic cyclone also played a roll in ice melt.

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Looks Considerably Worse

Sea ice extent is the measure of how much ocean the ice covers to its furthest-reaching edge. But it’s not the only measure of ice. Volume, which is a measure of both sea ice area and thickness, probably provides a better overall picture of how much ice is left. And the picture of sea ice volume going into the melt season for 2017 isn’t looking very good at all.

 

(Arctic sea ice volume through late February was tracking well below trend. This considerable negative deviation presents considerable risk for record low sea ice measures by the end of 2017 melt season. Image source: PIOMAS.)

Sea ice volume is now tracking about 2,000 cubic kilometers below the previous record low trend line for this time of year. In other words, the trend line would have to recover considerably over the coming months in order to not hit new record lows by the end of this melt season (September of 2017).

What’s happened is that the ice has experienced three consecutive very warm winter periods in a row — 2015, 2016 and now 2017. And a resulting considerable damage to the ice increases the risk that new all-time record lows will be reached this year. If the present volume measure remains on track through end of summer, sea ice volume could well split the difference between 2012’s record low of approximately 4,000 cubic kilometers of sea ice volume and the zero sea ice volume measure that represents an ice-free Arctic.

Cruel Summer Ahead

(Warm winds, above freezing temperatures, and rain caused considerable sea ice retreat in the Kara Sea from March 14 [top frame] to March 20 [bottom frame]. This event may well have been the herald to a record spring and summer melt during 2017. For reference, bottom edge of frame is 300 miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

This discussion is worth consideration given how much heat we’ve seen in the Arctic recently. However, we are unlikely to see such a neat progression. Spring and summer surface temperatures could track closer to normal ranges and cloudy (but not overly stormy) conditions could give Arctic albedo an assist — causing the melt rate to lag and pulling the volume measure closer to the trend line. But, it could also vary in the other direction. For post La Nina (we have just exited a weak La Nina) the ocean gyres tend to speed up — which enhances sea ice export — even as more heat tends to transport in the final post El Nino plume toward the poles.

If this particular form of inter-annual natural variability trend toward warmth and melt in the Arctic takes hold during 2017, then we will have less chance to see a spring and summer sea ice recovery toward the trend line. And this is one reason why we’ve been concerned since 2015 that 2017 or 2018 might see new record lows during the summer for Arctic sea ice.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Lowest Maximum Sea Ice on Record (Again)

Earth Nullschool

LANCE-MODIS

PIOMAS

The Great Arctic Cyclone Hangs On

NASA GISS Temperature Anomalies

Hat tip to Suzanne

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78 Comments

  1. Jeremy In Wales

     /  March 20, 2017

    Robert, it is not just the World that is on fire your typing fingers must be burning!
    Your articles are appreciated but pace yourself. Best wishes.

    Reply
  2. Ryan in New England

     /  March 20, 2017

    Thank you for such excellent and prolific writing lately, Robert. You’re covering very important stories that are all but ignored in most media. The world appears to be coming apart at the seams, I find it difficult to keep up with it all. We couldn’t do it without the wonderful resource you provide us here. Cheers!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Ryan. Rough stuff to be sure. Would like to write more about renewables and the transition away from carbon — for which we have both progress and tragedy. China, for example is planning to close it’s last coal plant in Beijing. The Tesla gigafactory is ramping up and will produce 35 gwh of batteries by year end. That should bring Lithium battery production to around 52 gwh globally by start of 2018. At least two more similar sized factories planned over the next few years. Maybe more. We’re in a situation where storage production capacity could equal near parity to present wind and solar production capacity in 4-6 years or less.

      Reply
      • mulga mumblebrain

         /  March 22, 2017

        Those developments evoke Hope, and imagine where we’d be if not for the denialist Right. I think even Trump’s lunacy can’t derail things now. But the question still must be- ‘Is it too late’? The heat in the oceans seems the most intractable problem to me. We can probably soon extract CO2 from the atmosphere, use it or sequester it in biomass, biochar or combined with serpentine rock, but how do we cool the oceans and dissipate the 150 plus zettajoules of energy sequestered there since 1850?

        Reply
      • Allan Barr

         /  March 23, 2017

        12 or 13 battery factories under construction around the world right now, with more planned Robert. Exponential increase of solar implies, if the growth continues 100% solar by 2026.

        Reply
        • Can you elaborate on this a bit? Do you mean 100 percent of all new electricity would be solar by 2026?

          I’d be careful with a pure exponential. What we should hope for is an S curve. And we seem to be hitting that now. But bad policy could get in the way.

  3. Phil

     /  March 20, 2017

    Yep, will be interesting to see what summer arctic weather conditions ultimately prevail and how this affects the melting season.

    Do you know if there has been any research done on 2007 and 2012 aimed at picking out ‘signals’ common to both years that might indicate some increased probability of similar years in the future.

    I suppose that one issue is the fluid nature of weather impacted by climate change makes projecting the future based on the past not only more difficult but also from a statistical perspective questionable, especially if nonlinearities are potentially involved.

    Reply
    • redskylite

       /  March 21, 2017

      I read that NASA had done work to improve sea-ice forecasts and back tested it (including 2007 2012).

      To test whether their model produced reliable forecasts, Petty’s team went back in time and made predictions for each year of the satellite record, using historical data of the Arctic sea ice conditions. They then evaluated the results against both the actual minimum extent for that year and what the long-term trend would have predicted.

      “We found that our forecast model does much better than the linear trend at capturing what actually happened to the sea ice in any specific year,” Petty said. “Our model is very good at catching the highs and the lows. The absolute values? Not exactly, but it tends to do very well at seeing when the sea ice extent is going to go up and when it’s going to go down compared to what we might be expecting for that year.”

      https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/study-improves-forecasts-of-summer-arctic-sea-ice

      Reply
    • redskylite

       /  March 21, 2017

      Also NASA plan to improve the hardware that measures ice thickness. Hope (and pray) that the U.S Government continues to support their invaluable work, the launch of ICESat-2 scheduled for 2018.

      ICESat-2, slated to launch in 2018, will use a laser instrument to measure the height of Earth’s surfaces globally. It will monitor vegetation, bodies of water and more, but with a focus on measuring ice and snow cover. By taking a dense set of measurements, the satellite will collect enough precise information for scientists to measure how far sea ice floats above the ocean surface, down to about 1 inch (3 centimeters).

      “The question we want to ask with ICESat-2 is what’s happening to the thickness of the ice,” said Sinead Farrell, a member of the ICESat-2 science definition team and polar scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. “We’re trying to monitor the health of the ice pack, and one of the things we’re really keen on doing is making sure we get the ICESat-2 data into the hands of scientists and the scientific community as quickly as possible.”

      https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2567/nasas-icesat-2-to-provide-more-depth-to-sea-ice-forecasts/

      Reply
    • With regards to natural variability related to atmosphere and ocean states, both 2007 and 2012 were post La Nina years (2005 was an El Nino year) and we’ve briefly touched on how post La Nina years can tend to produce higher risk for Arctic sea ice melt.

      The other major indicators are ocean heat gain (accelerating), ghg increase rate (near record highs) and related RF forcing increase, alterations to polar albedo (sea ice loss is amplifying feedback, increased cloud cover possible mitigating feedback, snow and ice darkening amplifying feedback, more brown carbon particulate from wildfires amplifying feedback), rate of fresh water outflow from glaciers and streams which can push more heat toward the ocean bottom and keep it cooler at the surface (size and resiliency of the fresh water lens), rate of ice berg discharge (ice berg cooling effect), and a few others.

      Reply
  4. Greg

     /  March 21, 2017

    Meanwhile back at camp hope:
    Dubai’s government-owned utility completed a 200-megawatt power plant one month ahead of schedule as part of a plan to build the world’s largest solar energy park by 2030.“The U.A.E. started early its preparations to bid farewell to the last drop of oil,” Al Tayer said Monday at the inauguration of the new plant.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-20/dubai-starts-desert-solar-plant-as-part-of-world-s-biggest-park

    Reply
    • Thanks for this Greg. Looks like China continues to proceed with a rapid shut-down of coal plants — which is certainly some good news on the climate front as well. I’m also struck by how easy it was for them to simply just plan to retrain workers. We need to get a politician or two in WV pushing retraining and economic vitality programs. I mean, there’s not much difference between West Virginia and Vermont at first blush. But one has a vital, diverse economy, and the other suffers from a severe bought of the resource curse. We need to figure out how we can make the WV economy more like the Vermont economy and get those people there some real opportunities.

      Reply
      • mulga mumblebrain

         /  March 22, 2017

        Between the USA and China we are seeing a demonstration of how ‘leaving everything to The Market’ is insanity. Suicidal insanity. The Chinese rationally plan for their society, then they let the animal spirits of supply and demand rip, to fulfill the plan. When planning, execution, evaluation and all are simply left to the predilections of the rich (the really existing ‘Free Market’) the only ‘plan’ is always the same-to further enrich the already wealthy, and to Hell with everybody and everything else.

        Reply
  5. Greg

     /  March 21, 2017

    Meanwhile in Peru flooding this week from a warmer Pacific is horrific:
    http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/d3a057d7be04318c866df2c507335295

    Reply
  6. Greg

     /  March 21, 2017

    March 20:

    Reply
    • No mention of Global warming,altho the 2 major papers here in Okla interviewed our long time state Climatologist.They do mention the return of drought and the failure of winter wheat crop expected..This is following large wild fires beginning of the month so 22 of 77 counties were declared in a state of emergency

      Reply
      • The farmers in Kansas are calling it their Katrina…

        Reply
        • Robert E Prue

           /  March 21, 2017

          I live about 18 miles north of Oklahoma border. I keep track of rain and snow events on a calendar. My last entry was January 22nd inch of rain last night. 58 days with no rain at least in my yard.

        • Robert Prue —

          NOAA CPC models show that the last 30 days have basically produced a flash drought situation in this region. Large moisture deficits in just a short time frame.

        • Robert E Prue

           /  March 21, 2017

          Yes, it’s very dry here! Cooler today compared to last couple days. The drought monitor posts weekly updates ton Thursdays. Will check it out. I’ve noticed because of the unusual warmth, that certain trees are blooming out near two months earlier compared to last years. The turkey buzzards returned Saturday. About two months earlier to past years. Have had yellow jackets (wasps) buzzing around since January. Ex_wifes bees all died or flew off due to a beetle infestation due to the ground being too warm (there goes the honey business). It’s way out of whack here and from reading your posts I know it’s out of whack lots of other places also. The bees going was depressing as Michelle put much time and effort into it and ,well, I bought the hives. I think I have the “climate change blues”.

      • mulga mumblebrain

         /  March 21, 2017

        Jean, in Australia, whether by edict, subtle hints or careful selection for Rightwing Groupthink among the presstitutes, climate destabilisation is VERBOTEN in our fake-stream media. The Great Barrier Reef bleaches for the second year in a row-little interest, soon dropped(!!) and NO mention of climate destabilisation. There is a BIG row, concocted by the Murdochite sewer and the rest of the Rightwing fake-stream media (with the Government ABC highly enthusiastic collaborators)against renewable energy and for ‘clean coal’ and fracked gas (coal-seam here, not shale, yet) and NO mention of the reason for renewables, climate destabilisation.
        All the overseas global weather disasters are ignored (they’re just terrorists, or wannabe refugees)and the local ones are reported with NO interest in why they are occurring. And the Murdochite sewer, the talk-back cess-pool and the non-Murdochite ‘business’ press, are STILL ferociously denialist and anti-renewables. You would, if you arrived from Tralfamadore, really, really, think that either the lunatics are in charge, or we have entered some sort of group suicide pact.

        Reply
        • Many of my “climate activists” will protest pipelines,but they ask me not to speak to reporters about Global Warming..a person should find solace in knowing that concerned people deal w the same problem ,so you do not have to blame yourself for not accomplishing much

        • So I think the mainstream print media is doing a lot better in the U.S. Not where I would hope it would be. But better. The visual news media is another matter. Fox continues to outright deny climate change and the other outlets just don’t talk about it much. The weather channel has gotten a lot better over the years, though.

          I think the press avoids it in some respect because the issue has become so polarized. But there’s a way to approach it that doesn’t polarize — just report the basic facts and statements by scientists and don’t invite climate change deniers to comment on the issue. In all honesty, at this point, it would be more responsible to raise at least a low level of alarm by labeling it a global crisis (which it is at this point) and doing continual coverage at one desk or another. It’s far more harmful now than terrorism ever was, for example. And it’s about to get worse.

          The other point is that fossil fuels have been so endemic to political and media influence that this is a hard block to surpass when it comes to the issue of responsible messaging on climate change. There is active supression of action continuing from those interests — national and corporate. And we should remain aware of that as we move forward.

        • wili

           /  March 21, 2017

          WRT, coverage, the Guardian has had some good coverage. Like this, for example:

          “…CC pushes world into ‘uncharted territory'”

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/21/record-breaking-climate-change-world-uncharted-territory

  7. Vic

     /  March 21, 2017

    WMO : “Arctic ice conditions have been tracking at record low conditions since October, persisting for six consecutive months, something not seen before in the [four-decade] satellite data record,”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/21/record-breaking-climate-change-world-uncharted-territory

    Reply
    • Yes, the global ocean surface and 2m atmospheric temperature regime just took a big leap up and that appears to be having a big impact on sea ice — both Arctic and Antarctic.

      Reply
  8. Andy_in_SD

     /  March 21, 2017

    This is a small interlude to lighten it up and put a smile on your faces.

    Michael Cohl was in the middle of telling a story about The Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels tour when he paused. “By the way, do you want to hear about the night I fired Donald Trump?” It was Cohl’s keynote address at Pollstar Live! this past February.

    http://www.pollstar.com/news_article.aspx?ID=819781

    Reply
    • Nice.

      So this Russian interference in our election, related ties to, and apparent collusion with the Trump administration means that the American people will likely have the opportunity to fire Trump relatively soon.

      Rex Tillerson is skipping a NATO meeting, but planning to visit Russia a month later. Yet one more instance where the Trump admin appears to be acting in the interests of Russia and actively undermining U.S. lead alliances. The more recent being Trump’s total silence on the Wikileaks (Russian surrogate) infowar on the CIA.

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39339431

      Reply
      • I wish it were that easy to get rid of Trump, unfortunately I think that he will be with us until the next election at least. As we delay real action on climate change more and more the scale and speed of what we will have to gets greater and greater. The level of denial may even increase in the core Republican/Trump voters (I have been amazed already how absolute denial has regained such strength in the past few years). An incredible leader will be needed to sell that to the public, a bit like Churchill with his “blood, sweat and tears” speech.

        Reply
        • It’s not going to be easy. But I think there is at least even odd that he will be gone in less than 4 years. The republican party is already losing a great deal of credibility. Many prominent republicans are starting to splinter away from his agenda and many more are horrified by what’s happening RE Russia. Even in today’s partisan environment, repubicans will find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Add in the fact that Trump’s protectionist and far-right policies are already starting to hurt the U.S. economy and there’s a very large backlash building.

          We should also note that it took Bush and his republican allies 8 years to wreck the U.S. economy and almost completely alienate our allies. The disaster that is Trump and a strongly right leaning republican Congress has already messed up our standing in the world again and is doing its best to hurt the poor and middle class even as its policies are undermining the return to a more prosperous and virtuous economic state that Obama established.

          Add in the fact that we continue to be attacked and undermined by a foreign power through collusion with sympathic Trump appointees and a continued cyberwarfare campaign is certainly not moot.

          America is about to have an awakening, Roger…

      • Suzanne

         /  March 21, 2017

        Just an FYI…The reason Tillerson is skipping the NATO meeting..is to be at Mar-a-Lago for a “trade summit” with 45 and the President of China. Right now, the “summit” is tentatively set for April 6th and 7th (the exact date has not been confirmed). I am trying to organize a protest down here for this event..since I am sure it will get a fair amount of national and international media attention.

        Reply
  9. generativity

     /  March 21, 2017

    OT but extreme weather mobilizes pollution. In the Kara Sea, less ice cover may increase the risk of leaks/spread of extensive nuke waste…one submarine is only 30m deep.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-21119774

    Reply
  10. redskylite

     /  March 21, 2017

    Robert Scribbler’s excellent detailed and illustrated works are a reflection of what this latest assessment by the World Meteorological Organization is reporting. So many anomalies and observations to report, so few of the media actually telling it like it is to Joe Soap the public.

    Record-breaking climate change pushes world into ‘uncharted territory’

    Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.

    “Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

    The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/21/record-breaking-climate-change-world-uncharted-territory

    Reply
    • I think that broader scientific reticence is giving way to a general sense of concern and measured alarm. This WMO report is a warning shot. NSIDC’s recent report was probably the most concerning such report I’ve seen in a while. These guys are doing their best to keep a measured tone. But it’s not a good thing when you read a WMO report on climate or an NSIDC report on sea ice and you get an impression of a tone of a severe weather warning for the whole climate system or the whole northern hemisphere ocean cryosphere.

      Reply
  11. Matt

     /  March 21, 2017

    “If the present volume measure remains on track through end of summer, sea ice volume could well split the difference between 2012’s record low of approximately 4,000 cubic kilometers of sea ice volume and the zero sea ice volume measure that represents an ice-free Arctic.”
    Hi Robert,
    Excellent article as always!!
    The Zero sea ice volume you refer to is one of these confusing issues that tend to muddy the waters and help the cause if disinformation relating to CC. Although obviously correct (Zero has to be ice free), it is my understanding that the arctic will be declared as “ice free” when the extent measure dips below 1m Square Km?
    This is because of the massive amount of glacier calving expected from Greenland and other surrounding land masses. I previously raised concerns relating to the temperature records constantly being compared to differing baselines. It is easy for us to understand but for those who need convincing it presents as different stories being told so the scientists must be in disagreement. 😦
    BTW I am unsure as to the origins of the magical 1Million figure, but it is certainly mentioned endlessly over on Neven’s Blog. I am sure one of the Scribblers here would have an answer???

    Reply
    • Robert E Prue

       /  March 21, 2017

      It’s a “blue ocean event” where there’s a lot of open waters and a little ice. Not totally ice free but “darn near ice free”.

      Reply
    • Actually, we suggested a 1 to 1.5 million square kilometer range to represent a ‘blue ocean event and near ice free state’ back in 2013.

      Fully ice free and blue ocean/near ice free are distinct terms. I wouldn’t call them fuel for climate change deniers as these terms are needed to describe a relationship between ice and climate in that a blue ocean Arctic is a fundamentally changed state even if there are few small ice floes meandering about. Fully ice free is not so much different in the climate sense, but is a practical term used for measurements. Of course, duration of ice free and nearly ice free states is absolutely important when it comes to both climate and ecological impacts.

      Reply
      • Matt

         /  March 22, 2017

        Ahh was it here? and that long ago…. i’m feeling old 🙂
        I agree with your points, but would add that defining terms such as climate change and global warming, both describing related but differing effects of carbon pollution would not be fuel either, but look at the traction they have given the trolls.
        It would be really helpful if a definition was endorsed (IPCC perhaps)? as we all know the denialist element will use this to further muddy the waters.
        I can see WUWT now… “look at this picture of sea ice, and the scientists are telling you the arctic is ice free”….
        Any way not overly important, really just emphasises the importance of providing a clear easy to understand consistent message out there to Jo public, remembering that Jo Public are not all fascinated and as concerned with what is going on, like us here?

        Reply
  12. Mark in OZ

     /  March 21, 2017

    The temperature driven conditions that permit sea ice to form are being methodically dismantled before our eyes.
    Due to the salinity, sea water needs ~ (-) 1.8C to become ‘ice’. To achieve this, the top (surface) layer to about 150m depth needs to be cooled to this freezing point. Cooling is process where heat energy is removed. This is where the malfunction in creating sea ice will become evident.
    While we are witnessing extraordinary temperature climbs in many regions, the arctic is warming at over twice the rate as the lower latitudes.
    The Piomas Daily Arctic Ice Volume chart (above) reads like the sine wave of a slowing pendulum.

    http://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card

    Reply
    • The sea ice is getting hit from both the surface atmospheric temperature increase and from heat build up in the waters below the ice. As ocean heat energy transfers efficiently from low latitudes to higher latitudes, the ocean in the Arctic is ventilating more heat to the surface region which is melting ice and pushing atmospheric temperatures higher.

      Reply
  13. Vic

     /  March 21, 2017

    A good documentary aired last night on the emerging climate wars.

    Four Corners: The Age of Consequences

    http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/four-corners/NC1704H007S00

    The above link might be geo-blocked outside of Australia. If so there’s a lower quality version here,

    Reply
  14. Robert E Prue

     /  March 21, 2017

    What I find alarming is the methane hydrates bubbling up once the big ice cube is gone during summer! I don’t know what to think. Does anyone really know? I’ve read it will take a long time. Also read it’ll kill us all! There’s already 2.5 times compared to previous industrial. Also, with more atmospheric methane, the OH gets depleted so methane stays in the atmosphere for a longer half life.

    Reply
    • So the consensus science is pretty certain that a very large methane hydrate release of the kind you describe is very unlikely on relatively short time-scales. And it is even more unlikely that you’ll get a sustained release that equals 2.5 times the RF from human emissions over time.

      To be very clear, the human emission and the present rapid build up of radiative forcing is something that we don’t have a clear corollary for in the geological record. In other words, it’s highly likely that the Earth System cannot even match the sustained rate of ghg build-up that humans are presently producing. That said, even an Earth System feedback that represented 10 percent of the human greenhouse gas forcing over time would still be a big problem (as fast or faster than the rate of ghg build-up during the PETM). And it’s worth noting that a considerable portion of any methane hydrate feedback would go to acidifying the ocean, raising the chemocline, and contributing to rapidly declining ocean health. So we should be concerned about it as a feedback, but we shouldn’t over-play it and we should absolutely proceed with caution.

      With regards to the OH sink, you need a very, very large pulse of methane (very, very low propability) to deplete it. It’s rather resilient and it’s constantly regenerated by lightning, for example. Some human chemicals can reduce its resiliency but that is a somewhat separate issue.

      I would caution that over-playing the methane risk shifts focus away from the real source of the present problem — which is human fossil fuel emissions. I would also caution that overplaying it generates a lack of credibility and plausibility. We should be able to talk about methane feedback without stepping into what amounts to a big gray area and making unreasonable assumptions. What we can responsibly do is try to establish a range of likely feedbacks and to call for more research on carbon feedbacks of all kinds.

      Reply
      • Robert E Prue

         /  March 21, 2017

        Thank you for explaining the methane hydrates thing. I admit, I might be over concerned about it. Reckon I should ovoid the ” Arctic Methane Emergency Group”?

        Reply
        • I would tread carefully. They have attacked global climate treaties (which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and promoted a number of harmful geo-engineering approaches to climate change mitigation like solar radiation management (which models indicate would exacerbate droughts in regions like Africa and negatively impact billions of people).

          The issue of methane release from hydrates is something worth tracking. But AMEG at times has appeared to politicize it to promote pet geo-engineering projects or, in the past, to provide cover for fossil fuels.

        • I want to add that I do track methane hydrate. And that it does kinda keep me up at night. But the science is rather unclear at this time and it’s very difficult to assign a high certainty to the threat.

          We can’t assume that a large release will happen in a short timeframe with any high degree of confidence. And those claiming that it’s inevitable bump up against the consensus science which is strongly against that being a likely risk.

          The way to approach the subject is by trying to open up more research and discussion. And by keeping an eye on the visible markers.

          Present methane increases are not indicative of a precursor to a large release. However, we do have some significant methane overburdens that do pop up in the Arctic from time to time. What this seems to indicate is that we are getting some level of carbon feedback from that system — which is bad enough.

          With regards to a large methane spike — if it happened, it would result in a spike in radiative forcing and then rapidly tail off as CH4 is oxidized. This might produce an extra 0.2 to 0.5 C warming in a decade in the worse cases. That’s pretty bad. But when you consider that human ghg emissions will tend to push global warming by 3-7 C+ under BAU by end Century, and you kinda get a little perspective on the problem.

          Humans, it appears, are far more efficient at releasing carbon into the atmosphere than even the worse feedbacks from the Earth System. And though Earth System feedbacks should keep us up at night, we should be really, really worried about stopping human greenhouse gas emissions and shifting to renewables/efficiency as fast as possible.

  15. Abel Adamski

     /  March 21, 2017

    The GOP may well kill off NASA and NOAA and the EPA”s observational and satellite programs, but other countries are stepping up. Would be poetic justice if they refused to share the Data with the US

    http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2016/s4639954.htm

    Being ABC Radio it is an audio, but in the past at least the text is also put up, hopefully soon

    For the first time in nearly 15 years, Australian-made satellites are set to be launched into space in the coming days.

    Three nano-satellites, built by universities across Australia, are part of a global project collecting climate data from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere.

    The highly anticipated launch comes as the Australian Space Industry Association releases a white paper calling for an urgent government commitment to a permanent national space program.

    Reply
    • I think California is working to provide a safe haven for U.S. scientists. We are working to hold republicans accountable and to help to push them to continue to fund Earth Science based initiatives. We are also working to help store U.S. government climate data on outside computers so that critical research is not lost if the worst case scenario happens and republicans try to purge both scientists and scientific information.

      We should be very clear that the U.S. is basically now at risk of being a victim of an attack on our science. That attack has come both from within and from international oil interests. The U.S. is not the only nation to suffer from such insults in the present day.

      I am reassured to see that other nations are stepping up. But we should also say that the people of the US do not agree with these actions. We should view this potential purge as an assualt by bad actors that do not represent the interests of the American people nor the spirit of scientific sharing across the world that we have worked so hard to keep safe.

      Reply
    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  March 22, 2017

      Robert the scrivener beat me to it. Share ALL the information with California, which is a scientific-technological powerhouse, as well as the other leading such entities, Germany, China, India, Israel etc. Ignore the numb-skulls, get on with the job, and when Trump, the Kochs and Murdoch are a bad memory, the science and technology that may save us or at least lessen the disaster will be there.

      Reply
  16. Abel Adamski

     /  March 21, 2017

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/beijings-pollution-plight-to-get-worse-with-climate-change-in-bad-news-for-coal-20170320-gv1tm4.html

    Beijing’s pollution plight to get worse with climate change in bad news for coal
    Pressure on China’s leaders to cut pollution from coal is likely to intensify – potentially hurting Australia’s exports – with new research showing Beijing’s air quality will get worse with climate change.

    The Chinese capital’s ring of mountains to the west and north naturally traps pollution, especially in winter.

    But a warming world is projected to increase the frequency of the most severe pollution events by half, according to research published on Tuesday in the Nature Climate Change journal.

    Using 14 climate models, the research predicted a more stagnant air mass over northern Asia and a reduced land-sea temperature difference during winter, leading to weaker north-westerly winds, said Wenju Cai, a senior CSIRO scientist and lead author of the paper.

    “If the air becomes stable, the air pollution cannot rise up and the wind is not there so it cannot be taken away,” Dr Cai said. “Then it becomes a serious problem.”

    While the pollution had been getting worse in recent years, there was not enough data to determine how much climate change had already had an impact, he said.

    Even so, the expected pattern may already be playing out. These include northerly winds often failing to reach Beijing and sometimes being replaced by southerlies that dragged in heavy industry pollutants from cities to the south that cloaked the capital, he said.

    I note Wenju Cai’s name on a lot of important leading edge research

    Reply
  17. Abel Adamski

     /  March 21, 2017

    More on Topic.
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-geologist-helps-advance-global-understanding-of-climate-change-20170317-gv0beq.html

    To find answers to one of the biggest issues facing the planet, University of Canberra geologist Duanne White travelled to one of its smallest, most inhospitable and isolated corners.

    Associate professor White braved freezing temperatures and blizzards on the remote and tiny island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic ocean, collecting data on climate change. He and his colleagues launched their final report in London on Friday, which showed ice sheets surrounding the island south-east of South America had shrunk faster than previously believed.

    Mr White said ice sheets around South Georgia had shrunk to a tenth of its original size since the last ice age, likely as a result of our planet’s warming climate.

    He said it would help future projections on the change to ice sheets across the planet, helping model sea level rises as a result of climate change.

    “It really did rewrite our understanding of how the ice sheets on South Georgia have changed.”

    “The previous theory was they are more or less the same they are today.”

    Reply
  18. Syd Bridges

     /  March 21, 2017

    Some better news from Boulder, where the Sunshine Canyon fire is now 100 percent contained. However, the sting is in the tail of this report.

    “Firefighters are comparing conditions to early June, when the state typically sees large wildfires.”

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/sunshine-fire-burning-in-sunshine-canyon-near-boulder-holds-at-62-acres-50-containment

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, Syd. With conditions similar to early June, it’s kind of a fire roulette. The dice, as Hansen has said, are loaded.

      Reply
  19. coloradobob

     /  March 21, 2017

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Last week’s deep freeze in the Southeast appears to have nearly wiped out Georgia’s blueberries and South Carolina’s peaches and seriously damaged a number of other crops like strawberries and apples.

    In South Carolina, 85 percent of the state’s peach crop is gone while the small pink blooms remain on the trees, according to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

    Up to 80 percent of south Georgia’s blueberry crop is gone, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said after touring the state late last week.

    Between the two states, crop losses from the freeze could approach $1 billion, officials said.

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/4b994210cec34a028fe3bb746437fd59/deep-south-freeze-means-fewer-blueberries-and-peaches

    Reply
    • Warmth + snap freeze did a lot of damage to a number of crops. The variability in the East has been a big problem. This is a climate change related issue in that polar warming keeps forcing these cold air outbursts down into the trough zones even as global warming is pumping in warmer air in the gaps between the frontal systems. So you get this highly variable weather that is hard on crops. This is in contrast to the summer like conditions occurring during late winter in the ridge zones.

      Reply
  20. Cate

     /  March 21, 2017

    Meanwhile, out on the Rock, it’s typical March: five feet of snow in the backyard. Hey ho.

    Reply
    • climatehawk1

       /  March 21, 2017

      Interesting. Here in east central Vermont, if memory serves, this has been the second strange winter in a row–very warm early conditions followed by a colder-than-normal March. Supposed to be near zero F Thursday a.m., which is just above record (-2F) for the date.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  March 21, 2017

        We’ve had a snowy winter, but yo-yo temperatures are the norm now, so heavy snowfalls are almost always followed by rain, which are then followed by flash freezes until the next snowstorm. Snow-clearing and salting cannot keep up. Walking is hell, and falls cause a surge of visits to A&E.

        Reply
        • Cate

           /  March 21, 2017

          Needless to say, we count our blessings. “Weird weather” is letting us off lightly so far, compared to other regions.

        • 12volt dan

           /  March 21, 2017

          very much the same here in central Ontario.

        • Oh yeah, absolutely. Impacts here remain relatively modest–some drought, temperatures averaging warmer than normal but not wildly so. Biggest threat seems to remain a major hurricane.

    • We’ve had a big flip to cooler weather here in MD after experiencing considerable warmth earlier in the month. A lot of the growers are worried about crops due to the sudden switches from cold to warm and back again.

      The warm air invasions of the Arctic appear to be driving Arctic air down into the trough zones. Heat in the Arctic pushed cooler air toward the SE side of North America.

      Reply
  21. coloradobob

     /  March 21, 2017

    Reply
  22. coloradobob

     /  March 21, 2017

    Intense storms over parts of the New South Wales north coast have flooded farmland and damaged crops.

    The community of New Italy, near Woodburn, received almost half a metre of rain on Saturday alone, while Dorrigo had 430 millimetres over the weekend. ………………….. Mr McCormack said a fall of 443 millimetres at New Italy resulted in water backing up in places that had not been flooded for years.

    Link

    Reply
  23. coloradobob

     /  March 21, 2017

    Another flashflood (huaico) yesterday afternoon in the town of Viru in Peru. It was the seventh that hit this town/region (report in Spanish):

    Reply
  24. coloradobob

     /  March 21, 2017

    Aerial view of the inundated city of Trujillo (some miles north of Viru) which saw its stongest “huaico” (so far) on Sunday (it was its sixth in just a week), damaging especially the historic center

    Reply
  25. Raul M.

     /  March 21, 2017

    Growing thought that Rex Tillerson won’t have the stamina to quash local gov. concerns about road damages from the fracking operations throughout the United States, now that earthquakes have been found to be associated with fracking operations. Then there are plain old ground faults. Anyway, road repairs can be expensive from just one earthquake so counties and states pay for additional repairs when their roadways are fracked.

    Reply
  1. Record Low Sea Ice Maximum a Lock as Arctic Continues Trend of Ridiculous Warmth | robertscribbler

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